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ISU Student Wins Prize for British Studies Essay


Portrait of Maya Greno

Idaho State University Senior, Maya Peters Greno won the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS) Undergraduate Essay Prize for her essay “Colonized Garments as Colonizer Trends: The Case of Asian Conical Hats in Western Fashions 1840-1960.”

Graduating this semester, Greno is a history major minoring in philosophy. The award was presented on Nov. 12 in Chicago. The award is for an undergraduate essay in British history written in a British history class that is nominated by the professor teaching the course.

Arunima Datta, Assistant Professor of South and Southeast Asian History, World History, and British and British Empire History nominated Maya for the award. Among many strong essays in her British Empire class in the fall of 2021, Datta says she saw potential for Maya’s research to be developed further. They spend two months working together and polishing the paper. 

“The process was very rewarding because I saw how Maya had picked up the skill sets that I aimed to transfer to students in how to unsilence these hidden figures and hidden histories,” Datta says. “I’m so proud of her and the work she does.” 

Greno’s essay covers the topic of British imperialism and enforced British culture on colonized communities and cultural counterflows these communities exhibited on colonizers by looking at “the case of Asian “coolie” hats and their adoption as fashion accessories in European descended cultures to explore the way these counterflows blurred cultural lines established in the empire’s colonies.”

“We had to focus on servants of the empire, and I chose Chinese indentured laborers,” Greno said. “While looking into their role as servants of the empire I noticed how Asian conical hats were used to create stereotyped images of them and how white women started wearing them after a while.”

Greno presented a poster, which is unusual for history. This was the first year NACBS had a poster session. 

“Several people stopped by and they seemed to engage with my topic; they asked questions, suggested further directions,” she said. “Everyone was really kind and even offered some advice for my grad school applications. I also attended actual scholars' presentations, and that was super cool! It was fascinating to see what other people are doing in the realm of British Studies.”  

“I'm happy to have had the chance to attend a real, Big Girl conference and see what established historians do.”

 


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